Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Naruto franchise

The Fifth Hokage had a problem.

Five years ago, Konoha was destroyed by Pain. After Pain was defeated, the Village council decided to abandon Konoha. The entire population moved to the nearby Village of Sunagakure which was fortunately spacious enough for Konoha's people to live comfortably. Over the course of the next few months, Suna flourished and the Konoha villagers took on a new name: The Desert Palm Village. Pamugakure, or as it was nicknamed, Pamu, grew to be a healthy sister village to Suna. Only a few miles apart, trade between the Villages blossomed, and both grew much stronger under the leadership of the Kazekage, and the Hokage, a title that Tsunade – after awakening from her coma – decided to keep in honor of Konoha.

Tsunade's problems started seven months after Pain's invasion. Her favorite Genin and "adopted" grandson, Naruto Uzumaki, decided to leave Pamu. He believed that his presence would only attract the Akatsuki. She begged him to stay, but he refused, and told her that she needed to keep the Village safe. One sunny day, Naruto left, and no one had seen him since. Over the years, Suna and Pamu grew even stronger, both becoming the most powerful Ninja Villages in terms of economic strength and foreign policy. Finally, Naruto contacted Suna and Pamu last year in a letter. He told them that he had finally defeated the last of Akatsuki, including Madara Uchiha. However, he also told them that he would not be returning to Pamu. He found people who needed him more, and he founded a new Village for these people. Tsunade did not understand why Naruto had decided to leave everyone, but she figured he knew what was best. Sakura and Hinata had tried to find out the name and location of Naruto's new Village, but they were disappointed when Tsunade told them that Naruto had kept that information hidden, in case the messenger hawk was intercepted.

Upset, Tsunade tried to focus her mind on her job. After Pamu was created, Tsunade decided that she needed to spend almost all of her time making sure that the Village ran smoothly. As a result, Shizune was promoted to Head of the Desert Palm medics. Sakura and Ino were now second in charge of the hospital and all of the medic-nins, including Hinata. However, Sakura left most of the work in Ino's hands, deciding that the blonde was better at running things. Sakura's time was now divided between the medical corp. and tracking down two of her missing friends: Sasuke and Tenten.

Sasuke had been gone for years, having decided that Konoha was holding him back in his quest for power. His missing status was nothing new. Tenten was a different story. The same hawk that delivered Naruto's message to Gaara and Tsunade had brought a third message to Tenten. No one knew what the message said, but after she received it, Tenten left Pamu and hadn't been seen since. So now, Sakura had two friends to find, which led to her current situation.

She was currently immobilized on the ground in the middle of a forest. She and Sai had tracked Sasuke to this location which was about two miles west of where Konoha once was. Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate a surprise attack, which led to her being pinned to a tree by a shower of senbon with Sai unconscious nearby with a senbon to the neck.

"You really thought you defeated me?" her attacker sneered.

"Who are you?" she demanded, not being able to see him.

"That's funny." he chuckled. "I'm surprised you forgot about me."

A man stepped into her view and she got a look at her attacker. He had short, dark green hair and purple eyes. He was wearing a tattered flak jacket over an equally tattered shirt. His pants were black.

"Aoi Rokusho." Sakura said venomoulsy as she recognized the man. "We should have made sure you were dead."

"A mistake that I will not make." Aoi told her. "I will kill you and there's nothing you can do. These senbon prevent you from focusing your chakra. You can't escape."

He drew a short sword from behind his back. He pulled it back and then thrust it towards Sakura's stomach. She closed her eyes in preparation for her death.

"Metal Style: Steel Curtain Jutsu!" someone shouted.

Sakura opened her eyes just in time to see a wall of metal shoot out of the ground and intercept Aoi's strike.

"What?" the enraged Jōnin questioned.

"Come on Rokusho, you'll have to do better than that!" the voice taunted.

Sakura froze.

"That voice. It's so familiar." she thought to herself.

"So we meet again." Aoi said, smirking.

"Can't say that this is a happy reunion." was the response.

"Is that Naruto?" Sakura thought.

"Let her go, now." the voice demanded.

"Why don't you try to rescue her?" Aoi taunted.

Suddenly, Sakura felt the senbon get pulled out of her body almost instantly. Then she felt herself get picked up and moved at an unbelievable speed. She was finally able to get a good look at her rescuer.

"How?" Aoi sputtered.

"Training will do that for you." her rescuer responded.

"Naruto?" Sakura asked.

The man looked down at the woman in his arms and gave her a very familiar grin.

"Who else?" Naruto confirmed.

He had changed, but he was still Naruto. Sakura got a good look at him as he put her down. He no longer wore his orange jumpsuit. Now, he wore a pair of plain black cargo pants tucked into a pair of black combat boots. For a shirt, he wore a black tank top that was tucked into his black belt. Over that, he was wearing a coat similar to the Fourth Hokage's, except that Naruto's was dark red with black flames along the bottom. On his back, Sakura could see the hilt of a sword. On his chest rested a gold necklace with a diamond-shaped ruby in the center. Naruto was also wearing a different headband. The cloth was black, like his old one. But the plate was a much darker gray than the Pamu headbands. And the biggest difference was the symbol. As opposed to Pamu's leaf-spiral, Naruto's headband was engraved with a circle that had an arrow coming out of the top. It was a symbol that she didn't recognize.

"Leave now, or face the consequences." Naruto told Aoi.

"What are you going to do?" Aoi chuckled as he returned his sword to its scabbard. "You can't beat me."

Naruto raised his hand so that his palm was facing the sky. His signature technique, the Rasengan, swirled into existence.

"Consequences it is then." Naruto responded.

Aoi laughed even more as he drew more senbon from his jacket. "You think that little lightshow can help you? It's useless due to my Chakra Absorbing Senbon!"

"Let's put that theory to the test, shall we?" Naruto said.

Suddenly, his Rasengan's core changed. Instead of being electric blue like the rest of it, the core turned pure silver. Naruto turned his hand so that the Rasengan was pointed at Aoi.

"Here we go," Naruto said, "Metal Style: Rasengan!"

The chakra sphere launched off of his hand at Aoi, who didn't expect a long-range attack. The sphere rocketed towards him and slammed into his shoulder, completely tearing off his right arm. The pain seemed to snap Aoi back to reality as he readied to throw the senbon.

"You'll pay for that." he snarled. "I only need one arm to kill you!"

"And what happens when you lose that arm as well?" Naruto asked as he drew his own sword. Sakura was surprised to see the sword. The hilt was simple: a black handle with a black crossbar. But the blade itself was amazing. Instead of being made of steel, the entire blade was made of a single ruby.

"Take this!" Aoi yelled as he threw the needles at Naruto.

"Please." Naruto responded as he brought his blade up. In one fluid motion, Naruto leapt over the senbon, his sword intercepting the needles along the way. As he descended, Naruto brought his sword back and slammed it through Aoi's stomach.

"Survive that." Naruto muttered as he returned his sword to its sheath on his back. Then he made his way back over to Sakura.

"Are you alright, Sakura?" he asked.

"Naruto, I can't believe it's really you." she said.

"Well, believe it, Sakura!" Naruto responded.

"Does that mean you're returning to Pamu?" she asked hopefully.

"I can't, Sakura." he told her. "I have to go back to my Village."

"But, Pamu is your Village!" Sakura insisted.

"I'm sorry, Sakura." Naruto told her with a frown. "But Pamu was never my Village, Konoha was. But now, we have a new Village that we can call home because it's exactly what Konoha needed to be."

She gave him a questioning look. "What do you mean, we?"

"My companions on this trip." he told her. Then he reached into his cloak and withdrew a bizarre-looking horn from his back. He turned away from her and raised the horn to his lips before blowing it, sending an unearthly sound across the forest. Suddenly, she heard a rustling of leaves before two figures leapt out of the tress and landed in front of them. Sakura instinctively reached for a kunai, but stopped when she felt Naruto grab her wrist.

"It's okay, they're my friends." he assured her.

Sakura relaxed and took in the appearance of the two newcomers. Both were wearing headbands identical to Naruto's. On the left was a guy about her and Naruto's age, she guessed. He had blue eyes and silver hair that was spiked vertically, not wild like Naruto's. He was dressed the same as Naruto, only his jacket was dark orange with black flames. On his chest was a necklace identical to Naruto's, except that it had an amber jewel in the center. She could see the handle of a sword behind his back.

Next to him was a girl that was also around their age. She wore clothes just like the other two; Sakura assumed that this was their Village uniform. Her jacket was silver with black flames. The silver jacket went well with the girl's icy-blue hair that was tied back in a ponytail and with her necklace, which had a quartz jewel in the center. Her eyes were a shade of silver that matched her jacket. And she too had a sword on her back.

"So this is the famous Sakura Haruno." the girl said as she and the guy looked Sakura over.

"Sakura, these are two of my elites: Ryu Hatake and Polaris Kori." he said as he gestured to the guy and girl respectively.

"Pleased to meet you." Polaris told her as she bowed.

"Ryu Hatake, at your service." Ryu told her as he also bowed.

"Hatake?" Sakura questioned. "Are you related to Kakashi-sensei?"

"Yes, ma'am." Ryu answered. "Kakashi-sama is my father's brother."

"So why are you all here?" Sakura asked, turning back to Naruto.

"Well, for four reasons." Naruto began. "One, I have a meeting with Lady Tsunade and Gaara-san. Two, I have a few things I need to pick-up. Three, Polaris really wanted to see my dad's monument; that's why we're in the area now. We were continuing on our way when we ran into you. And fourth, I really wanted to see all of you, Sakura, and extend an invitation to the entire Rookie, well Nine I guess."

"Invitation?" Sakura questioned. "What invitation?"

"You'll see." Naruto told her. "But like I said, we have to see Tsunade first."

With that, Ryu slung Sai over his shoulder, and the five of them took to the trees, heading for Pamu and Suna.


That night, the group stopped at the border between the forest and the desert. It wasn't as warm as a forest night, but not as cold as a desert night. Ryu and Naruto started a campfire while Sakura and Polaris created "beds" from leaves for the five of them. As they worked, Sakura thought back to the conversation she had with Naruto on the way there. She had done most of the talking, since he asked her how things were going in Pamu. She had tried to ask about his new Village, but he refused to talk about it until they reached Pamu. After a few minutes, they all were done and were seated around the campfire after Sai was laid down on his "bed".

"So is that your uniform or something?" Sakura asked trying to learn about the village she would hopefully be joining.

"Basically, yes." Polaris answered. "We wear these for everything in place of regular vests."

"Do they provide more protection?" Sakura questioned.

"No." Naruto told her. "The jacket isn't necessary. When we really need to, we wear our armor. However, that little skirmish with Aoi didn't require armor. Neither did our battle with Sasuke and his team. They're too weak to even come close to injuring one of us."

"You fought Sasuke and his team?" she questioned.

"Yeah, about two years ago." Naruto responded. "Unfortunately, they were able to escape. We were too distracted with saving Karin's life."

"Why were you doing that?" Sakura asked.

"Mainly to question her." Ryu answered.

Then Polaris said, "That information led us to our fight with Kisame and Zetsu."

"Which wasn't nearly as hard as their reputations had led us to believe." Naruto finished.

Sakura was surprised at how confident Naruto was about himself and his team. But then again, she hadn't seen him in over four years so she had no idea what he was capable of.

"I wish I was that strong." she muttered.

"Don't worry about it." Polaris told her. "We've had some seriously tough training."

"What kind of training?"

"That we couldn't tell you even if you were part of the Village." Ryu said. "It's part of the Knight Trials."

"What kind of armor do you wear?" was the next question after Sakura decided to try a different approach.

"Sorry, we can't divulge information about it unless you're a part of the Village." Ryu answered apologetically.

"This is a very secretive Village you all belong to." Sakura observed.

"Unfortunately, we have certain preparations that need to be finished before we can "come out of the shadows" so to speak." Naruto explained.

"I'm sorry." she told him. "You've been an amazing one-of-a-kind friend to me and I've been such a jerk to you."

"It's okay, Sakura." he replied. "I forgive you. I'm sure I really annoyed you a lot of the time. And I know that your love for Sasuke gave you a good reason to ignore me. I understand why you did the things that you did and I don't hold it against you."

"That's what I mean." she said, starting to cry. "You're so nice to me, even after what a jerk I've been."

"You haven't been a jerk, Sakura. Like I told you, I understand. Now, please stop crying. I hate seeing you upset, especially at yourself. You're an amazing person yourself. You're smart, you're funny, you're strong, you're humble, and most importantly, you care about your friends and family."

"I'm so sorry!" she sobbed as she grabbed him in a large hug.

Naruto held onto her and comforted her for a few minutes. Then, when was finished, she crawled over to her "bed" and fell asleep. The other three quickly joined her.

A/N: There you have it: the reworked first chapter of my Iron Shadow. I hope you guys like the new version as much as the old one. I apologize for disappointing you Naru/Saku fans, but I did this for the sake of the story. I also apologize for completely ignoring the poll that I put up, but I realized that this was the only way I'd enjoy writing the story now. I feel more comfortable writing this story, and as such, I won't rush through things in an attempt to end it ASAP. I won't bash Sakura or anything, but I just don't like the pairing anymore. Instead, she'll just be a close friend to Naruto. She'll be replaced by Tenten, who I believe would be a better match-up even if I did still like Naru/Saku. I would make it Naruto/Polaris, but I think that would aggravate you all even more, so Tenten it is. You'll be seeing her later. Hopefully you can forgive me, and I hope this doesn't turn you away from the fanfic. My hope is that you're reading for the story, not the pairing. Let me know what you think of the changes (good or bad) if you've read the originals, or if you're new to Iron Shadow, let me know what you think of the story itself!

Now for my original Jutsu:

1. Metal Style: Steel Curtain Jutsu - Allows user to raise a wall of steel as a defense, building material, etc. (As for the name: what can I say, I'm a Steelers fan through and through)

2. Metal Style: Rasengan - Forms a denser Rasengan that does more grinding damage as opposed to the Wind Style: Rasengan's cutting damage; Can also be launched, turning the Rasengan into a cannonball-like projectile (For visual effect: anyone that has Super Smash Bros. Brawl, just use Sonic in a fight, activate a Metal Box, and do the Spin Dash attack; that's what it looks like)

3. Naruto's Headband Symbol: it's basically the Mars sign pointing straight up instead of at an angle

4. As for Tenten and Naruto's horn: you'll have to wait until a little later in the story

Let me know what you think of the story!